Once upon a time I was a skinny gym rat with the aspirations of a competitive bodybuilder.
Fast forward a a few years and I still struggled to master my pull-up technique. I tried every routine possible for back training and spent more time on the assisted pull-up machine than I care to admit.
It was a lot. I felt like I was spinning my wheels. Especially when I was in full comparison mode trying to explain why my friends could do them seemingly with little to no effort.
Practicing pull-ups was certainly a good start. And as I say for most of my beginner clients…practice, practice, and practice some more. Quality technique takes YEARS to master.
However I was looking for some drills to accelerate my progress. I wanted to increase my technique while improving my physical capacity to do multiple pull-ups in a row.
Enter in these 3 drills. They aren’t anything revolutionary but they certainly helped me improve my game. Quite dramatically I might add.
If you’re anything like me and can’t break your pull-up plateau, see if these drills can work for you. I can’t promise the same results but I know they will help improve your technique, grip and upper body strength. Apply this over a consistent period of time and you’ll be well on your way…
Drill #1: Eccentric Only
The eccentric only pull-up is designed to challenge the downward phase of the pull-up without the use of the concentric portion of the upward motion.
Reasons to incorporate this into your training?
1.) To increase upper body strength for individuals that can’t perform the concentric action of the exercise.
2.) Learn how to recruit the corresponding muscle groups (Traps, Rhomboids, Lats)
3.) Improve kinesthetic awareness and body control during the lowering portion of the movement.
Drill #2: Isometric Holds
Isometric holds are one of my favorite variations to train the pull up specific muscles of the upper and mid back.
They are also useful for increasing grip strength in the top portion of the movement.
To perform this exercise well you’ll need to rely less on your arms and more on the muscles of your upper back. You do this by depressing your scapulae and initiating the contraction through the upper/mid back and rhomboids.
Drill #3: Band Assisted
Where your pull-up strength may lack rubber bands can add some needed assistance to the movement.
I am reluctant to include this one at times as some coaches argue against the use of bands because they don’t properly “mimic the strength curve” or are challenging to progress consistently over time.
While I do agree with this sentiment, there is still value in using bands for beginners. They can help teach proper mechanics and body awareness. I especially like to use a band when teaching the downwards phase because it can cue my clients to brace their core and maintain rigidity throughout the body.